Security and stress management

Living and working abroad, especially in the volatile or fragile contexts where most humanitarian aid and development projects are implemented, requires that staff members and employers take adequate safety and security measures.

People involved in development projects or humanitarian work are usually posted overseas. They are more exposed to danger than the average citizens of an economically developed and politically stable country: natural hazards, mosquitoes, diseases and epidemics, water shortages, power cuts, traffic accidents, riots and demonstrations, petty theft, crime and robbery, unexpected encounters with armed people, curfews, hostage taking and kidnappings, not to forget fires and computer viruses - and the list is far from exhausted.

In some contexts, the mere fact of being a foreigner from a rich Western country, or being perceived as one, can be an added risk.

Managing stress

Managing one’s own stress and maintaining an adequate life domain balance plays a crucial role in reducing the probability of hazards, or in minimizing their consequences. The capacity to communicate and to interact smoothly with colleagues from other cultural backgrounds, as well as the ability to establish a healthy atmosphere in a team, is also a significant risk-reducing factor.

Individual and collective responsibility

People who choose to work in the humanitarian and development sector should be responsible enough to adopt personal safety and security measures.

Those who employ humanitarian aid and development workers also bear an added legal responsibility, known as ’Duty of Care’, to make sure that their staff is not exposed to unnecessary harm. International organisations and major non-governmental organisations have already put in place safety measures and security regulations to protect their staff, their premises and their data.

Specialists posted abroad need checklists and manuals to deal with stress and safety, so that they can concentrate on their main tasks.

Heinrich Schneider, Consultant cinfo

In volatile contexts, where armed robberies, kidnappings and hostage taking are becoming more frequent, the more responsible employers have also established a contingency plan and communication procedures in case of such a crisis. A few have adopted measures to provide necessary psychological support for victims of serious security incidents and for their family members.

Be prepared

Go through these points before you leave and once you have arrived at your duty station:

  • Have you thoroughly checked the risks of the country or city where you are going to be posted?
  • Are your partner and your children prepared to accompany you, or will they stay behind?
  • Do those you leave behind know how to contact you?
  • Can you drive a car with manual gears in a country where they drive on the other side of the road?
  • Where do you go in case a venomous snake bites you?
  • What number do you call in case of a fire or a traffic accident?
  • Who will replace the money for your project and your computer with all your data if burglars steal it?
  • How will you react if armed people want to take your mobile phone or your vehicle?
  • What do you do if one of your team members does not return from a field trip? And what will you tell the family if there is still no news about this person after one week?
  • What support can you expect from your own employer, from your insurance company, from the local authorities and from the consular representation of your country of origin?

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Preparation training

Security and Stress Management for NGOs

5-7 September 2016

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